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REVIEW: Can’t Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards

Dear Ms. Edwards:

Thank you for sending me this book. I confess I tried to read this book many times, never making it out of the first few chapters. The heroine, Miranda Wake, a food critic, gets drunk at a restauraent premiere and makes some very loud and rude remarks. She then insults the chef, accepts a dare to be in his kitchen for one month, and sells a tell all memoir based on her experiences, which she has not yet had.

But then the book was released and positive reviews popped by readers who had actually finished the book. Finally, Sarah convinced me that it was worth powering through. Yes, she told me, Miranda gets in her own way, repeatedly, but Adam Temple is a “happy alpha” and his motley crew of chefs make it all worthwhile. It’s true. In the end, I did like the book and was glad to have read it.

Miranda Wake is an esteemed food critic in New York. Her restaurant reviews can be scathing and she is followed avidly by the New York food cognoscenti. Unfortunately, Miranda’s quest to become a published author is shot down, again, and her beloved brother, Jess, has left his college scholarship in the Midwest to attend NYU.

Miranda has been Jess’ guardian since they lost their parents when Miranda was 18 and Jess was 10. She has worked hard to provide Jess with everything that she thinks her parents would have provided, including a college education. Not wanting Jess to have to work while studying, she manages to sell a book idea about the kitchen staff of Adam Temple’s new restaurant, Market.

Unfortunately for Miranda she not only gets the dirty goods on each and every sous chef, prep chef and even dishwasher in the Market’s kitchen but she also falls in love with Adam Temple and comes to appreciate the kitchen staff of Market when she works with them for a couple of weeks. But her love for Jess and her guilt at his not having parents drives her to make difficult (and unlikeable decisions).

Adam Temple is finally opening his own restaurant based on the idea of sustainable food. He buys everything local, from his produce to his poultry, and creates food to which he hopes his customers will have a connection. The rendering of Adam is done in large passionate strokes. He is a man of quick temper, but of big heart. His joy for life, his passion for his craft imbued every page. He had an eye for talent and could see potential in the demeanor of the lowest food worker on his crew.

His crew of chefs also had distinct identities even though we were only given small glimpses. Even the food and the cooking were so well done that these elements were almost characters by themselves. I wanted to book a table at Market by the half way mark of the story.

In the end, all the positives of the book: the happy alpha Adam who was an uncomplicated lover of life and of people; the tender and uncertain secondary romance; and the kitchen, food, and cooking negated the not so positive reaction I had toward Miranda.

I understood Miranda’s motivations but I wasn’t convinced by them. Part of this is due to the publication of the book itself. Miranda was writing the book because she needed the money to pay for Jess’ tuition at NYU. But tuition at NYU for four years would be close to six figures. It was unlikely that Miranda’s book would have netted a huge advance. Further, the idea that Miranda could take private cooking classes with Adam, work full time in the Market kitchen and write a 150 page memoir in two weeks seemed beyond improbable. It’s possible that this could have all happened but my credulity was strained and that made it hard for me to see Miranda in a sympathetic light.

I was convinced that Adam loved Miranda and wanted her with a passion that he normally reserved for food and for this reason, I closed the book satisfied. I’ll take a second serving of happy alpha. B-

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers. This is a SMP book so it’s ebook price is insanely high – $14.00.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

22 Comments

  1. Jessica
    Sep 29, 2009 @ 16:15:02

    But her love for Jess and her guilt at his not having parents drives her to make difficult (and unlikeable decisions).

    I agree. You know who she reminded me of? The Sarah Jessica Parker character in The Family Stone (2005), where she arrives at a family holiday celebration as the difficult-to-like fiance of Dermot Mulroney.

    There is a scene at the dinner table, when she says something so wretched (“I wouldn’t want my child to be gay”), and then, instead of apologizing (Mulroney’s brother is gay), tries to defend herself… and digs the hole deeper and deeper. It’s just painful! But it’s the skill of the filmmakers that you like her in the end, and the same I found true of Edwards’ heroine.

    Great review!

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  2. StephS
    Sep 29, 2009 @ 17:02:10

    I would love to read this book just for the happy alpha hero but the reviews I’ve read so far really dislike the heroine! I can’t stand TSTL heroines (or heros for that matter) so I’m not sure I’ll take the jump into this book. I’m withholding final judgment for now though.

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  3. jmc
    Sep 29, 2009 @ 18:50:55

    The ebook price shows up as $14 base price but marked down to $6.99 at Amazon.

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  4. Zoe Archer
    Sep 29, 2009 @ 20:37:05

    Yes! More happy alphas! Exactly the kind of man I would actually like to be with!

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  5. Miki
    Sep 29, 2009 @ 20:53:20

    Happy alpha? Whu?

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  6. Diane V
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 07:57:58

    Read it because one of my friends loved it – but I disliked Miranda so much that I felt Adam deserved someone so much better for his HEA.

    Plus Miranda’s actions at the party were so unprofessional and inexcusable that it should have been the kiss of death for her career — not rewarded.

    Loved the way that Adam was portrayed, but Miranda still makes me want to throw the book against the wall. It’s this kind of heroine that always makes me think that the author is secretly a male (despite the author photo and bio in the back of the book), because no female should write such an incredibly stupid heroine. I don’t know if I’ll pick up the next book, because usually authors who have heroines that are TSTL continue that unfortunate characteristic in every book they write (i.e. Stella Cameron and Penny McCall — I still want the hit men to succeed in getting the heroine in “All Jacked Up”)

    And the angst of Jesse was settled way too quickly IMHO. Plus, he needed to find some balls and suck it up — don’t have your sister pay for college when it was your choice to reject a full-ride through school.

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  7. Cathy
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 08:33:25

    I was really excited when I read about this book on DA – I’d like to see more romances with a culinary theme. I loved Adam, I thought he was a great character, and would love to read a sequel with him… and a new woman.

    I really, really disliked Miranda, for many of the reasons discussed in the review and other comments. The book writing drama bothered me, but the situation with Jess was enough to make me put the book down for several days. I finally picked it back up, hoping she’s show some level-headedness, but instead I got “our dead parents would’ve wanted you to be happy…” Ugh. I finished the book, hoping for some growth and change, but when it happened it felt so artificial, and then the overly dramatic ending killed it for me.

    Also, the food metaphors were cute, but felt a little overdone by the end. Especially when Miranda referred to Adam’s penis as an “amuse-bouche.” As I understand it, and amuse-bouche is supposed to be a perfect little bite, so I’m glad to finally see a romance hero who isn’t endowed like a porn star. ;)

    I’ll keep an eye out for future books by Ms. Edwards, but I’ll definitely be reading several reviews before I consider buying.

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  8. Jill D.
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 08:45:16

    @Jessica: OH.MY.GOD That scene was incredible. I was so uncomfortable that I broke out in a sweat. The tension in the air was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. But I remember thinking how misunderstood SJP character was. She didn’t mean to come off as rude and she was trying so hard to get people to like her.

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  9. Jane
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 09:01:35

    @Diane V I can see having that response. I never saw Miranda as stupid – like running out into the street when a semi is coming stupid – but having made bad decisions motivated by guilt and love. I never really loved Miranda but I was convinced that in the story Adam did and that she would make him happy and that was enough for me.

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  10. Jane
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 09:03:24

    @Miki Are you asking what I think a happy alpha is or suggesting that its an oxymoron?

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  11. Jane
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 09:05:57

    @Jessica I thought your review was great too. I loved the analysis of the conflict. I think I am a low conflict kind of person. It’s a poll question in the making! I had some disagreement with a point you made in your review but I can’t remember what it is now. I’ll go and comment over at your blog when I remember.

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  12. Lori
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 10:09:26

    Good review. I never disliked Miranda but I did want to hit her upside the head a few times.

    I think it’s important to also mention that Ms. Edwards can write. One of the frustrations I find is that there are a lot of books with interesting plots or characters but lackluster writing. (I approach writing from a poetic bent and like skillful use of language.)

    The food metaphors didn’t bother me because they fit the characters. Especially Adam. The secondary romance had a lot more of the softness and yearning that I wished the primary romance had but it really added emotional heft to the stories.

    I’m really looking forward to follow-up books from Ms. Edwards. I love culinary stories, I find kitchens and men in kitchens to be highly erotic (what can I say? I’m a total foodie wanna-be) and I liked the skill and writing voice. I think the conflict and resolution did keep this book from soaring but the pleasure in the characters in what they do and the lives they were living really made it a good read.

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  13. Kate Pearce
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 11:43:35

    I know that Miranda was difficult to like sometimes, but, I could totally see where she was coming from. She seemed very real to me, and in my opinion, the book wouldn’t have worked if she’d been as sweet and awesome as Adam. There would’ve been no conflict at all, and the fact that she garnered such strong reactions from readers shows how well Ms Edwards can write.
    I liked the role reversal – that for a change it was the heroine who messed up and had to scrabble to get back into the heroes good books rather than the other way around.

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  14. Maria Geraci
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 18:53:04

    I think Kate had a good point about the role reversal in this book. In a lot of romances, we expect the hero to be the one who has to scramble and change to be worthy of the heroine’s love. Or as Jack Nicholson put it in “As Good as it Gets” (one of my favorite all time movies) “You make me want to be a better man.” I think Miranda was just a very human character, with all the scratches and dings we all come with, and in the end, Adam’s love made her a better woman and a better sister to Jess. I found the ending extremely satisfying and as Lori said, Louisa Edwards can write! This book was a delicious treat and I can’t wait to gobble up the next one!

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  15. Miki S
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 20:57:09

    @Jane: This was not a phrase I remember coming across before. I’m trying to figure it out what it means…rather than being all intense, he smiles while he’s dominating you?

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  16. Jane
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 21:56:41

    @Miki S: I don’t equate alpha with domination. I equate alpha with leadership. Adam was a genuinely cheerful person who had little emotional baggage. He was full of passion and mostly full of joy of life but he was clearly someone who commanded attention and who people followed almost with slavish devotion. He was top dog in his kitchen.

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  17. Miki S
    Sep 30, 2009 @ 22:17:25

    @Jane: Ah. Okay. I like that definition. Not sure I think it’s the “common” one for alpha in romance, but you make this hero sound very appealing to me.

    Disclaimer: I’ll admit I’m rather sensitive to dominance issues, so I tend to avoid romances that put a stress on “alpha male”.

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  18. Natalie
    Oct 01, 2009 @ 19:12:58

    I was glad to see this mixed review. I’d heard such great buzz about it, and I loved the premise. Miranda’s rude drunkenness didn’t bother me at the beginning, but I couldn’t finish this book. It started with what seemed like a strange and not properly motivated reaction to her brother’s big revelation, and then after (time impossibility of the writin of the book aside) all the see-sawing about handing in the book and the (improbable) leaking of the ms … I didn’t like her enough that I didn’t want her to have a happy ending. I *loved* Adam and didn’t want him to forgive her. So I stopped reading. Ms. Edwards is a very skilled writer, though. I was having a good time until then.

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  19. Jane
    Oct 01, 2009 @ 19:21:39

    @Natalie I hear the next book has a much more likeable heroine so maybe you can revisit LE in March.

    ReplyReply

  20. The Case of the Unlikeable Heroine | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Oct 13, 2009 @ 04:01:51

    [...] about the female protagonists, or heroines, of the stories as not being very likeable. I know I struggled with Miranda, the heroine in Can’t Stand the Heat. I thought I would ask Tessa Dare and Louisa Edwards to [...]

  21. Jinni
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 11:02:44

    I was just checking this site because I thought this was where the rec came from. I’m still at the pick it up and put it down phase. Perhaps, I’ll give it another chance and try to move beyond the first couple of chapters . . . .

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  22. Jinni
    Feb 26, 2010 @ 14:10:48

    Okay, I put it down. Just couldn’t do it. With a newborn, I’m plowing through my TBR file and this just didn’t resonate, no matter how hard I tried. Not only did I not like Miranda (and I don’t need to ‘like’ my heroines), but I found her uninteresting, unprofessional, and kind of closed off for someone supposedly so ‘liberal.’ Am happily shipping it off to another book swap member today.

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